Shown on BBC4 Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
21st January 1981 already? BBC4 is attempting to work me to death by showing two editions of Top of the Pops each week. The slave drivers. Understandably they're also continuing to skip editions presented by certain people. Fortunately J*mmy S*v*l* only presented seven programmes in 1981; unfortunately one of them was the special 900th edition. D*** L** T***** continues to be a monthly presence (bad news folks he presented the programme where Legs & Co campily splash around in a paddling pool to Bermuda Triangle) which is why BBC4 have just jumped from 08/01/1981 to 21/01/1981 which is presented by...
Peter Powell: "Hi folks! Welcome to Top of the Pops! Well we've started and I'm glad you could join us for this Thursday night edition starting off with The Look and I Am The Beat!"
The Look: I Am The Beat . Congratulations to Vision Mixer Hilary West for a perfectly timed cut right at the top of the programme. Top of the Pops begins with a close-up of the big Eidophor screen, and as the introduction to I Am The Beat plays the camera slowly zooms out to Peter Powell before zooming back in across the audience to the stage where The Look are playing; with a spot on cut to a different camera just as the lyrics begin. Yes it's a small moment, but it's the kind of small moment which adds impact and excitement to the show even if the viewers at home don't notice. In fact this is a very slickly recorded performance with lots of swooping crane shots (and inevitably lots of turning audience heads as they realise a camera is bearing down on them), and another nicely timed camera move at the end of the performance with a pull back from The Look to Peter Powell. The only oddity is the empty audience area at the back of the stage. Shots of The Look are sometimes a bit sparce because they lack the normal background of people dancing (or sitting and looking bored, this is the Top of the Pops audience we're talking about). This is still a brilliant song, and The Look become the first band of 1981 (or 2016 if you prefer) to get my hard earned 99p in exchange for a copy of the single.
Blondie: Rapture . On video. Blondie's weirdest song? Quite possibly. Check out the end of the song which is part rap and part extended stream of consciousness writing. It's good, but I prefer Atomic.
Spandau Ballet: The Freeze . The Freeze? Not 'arf. The band must be getting chilly with all that dry ice floating round. Particularly the poor drummer who seems to be sitting right in a jet of the stuff. Spandau Ballet are modelling a particularly well groomed variant of the New Romantic look and they look like they've come from one of the studio sessions for Blakes 7 series 4. Gary Kemp looks like he could stunt double for Tarrant.
Racey: Runaround Sue . A repeat from the 08/01/1981 edition.
XTC: Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me) . A weirdly plodding but catchy song. It's a shame about Andy Partridge's terrible miming. Out in the crowd a man wears a pair of glasses made out of the word Cool. If your glasses spell the word Cool, you're not cool. Cool would be wearing a pair of glasses which read Not Cool.
Visage: Fade To Grey . Nice video, shame about the song.
Yarbrough & Peoples: Don’t Stop The Music . Legs & Co are all dressed up in tartan. There are literally only two explanations. One, it's an off-hand reference to Burns Night on 25th January. Two, the costume designer misheard the band as Yarbrough & Peebles. "Produced by Jimmy Pursey!" Peter Powell tells us. Well, that explains why it's rubbish.
Adam & The Ants: Antmusic . A repeat from 11/12/1980.
Honey Bane: Turn Me On, Turn Me Off . A very out of time slice of plastic punk. I can see someone like Lene Lovich making this song work, but Honey Bane's performance falls flat. The audience are more interested in spotting themselves on the studio monitors.
Bad Manners: Lorraine . A second repeat from 08/01/1981.
Top Ten Countdown: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. John Lennon's multiple singles (Happy Christmas War Is Over, Woman, and Imogen) go uncaptioned; on the last BBC4 edition it was felt necessary to distinguish John Lennon's various still photos. The BBC's colour generator breaks halfway through Woman at number 3 and the TOP TEN caption flashes in a plain white font.
Number One: John Lennon, Imagine.
Closing titles: The Gap Band, Burn Rubber On Me . Robin Nash is standing in for Michael Hurll so we return to Robin Nash's preferred way to end the show with the camera panning across the studio lighting grid shot through a kaleidoscope. Geoff Posner is Director this week, promoted from Production Manager on the 08/01/81 edition.
Performance of the week: XTC, Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me)